Pentagon: Untapped Afghan mineral wealth could top trillion dollars
News of the country's wealth likely to intensify competition among China, India and even Russia for role in exploiting Afghanistan resources.
Deputy Undersecretary of Defense Paul Brinkley, who headed the task force, said the findings showed
Mineral wealth in
The extent of
The minerals survey was part of a broader effort to identify the economic potential of
The Afghan review was initially carried out in 2006 and 2007, but the task force focused primarily on
The assessment concluded the scale of
An estimate based on mineral prices late last year concluded
Officials said the trillion dollar figure did not include known oil and gas reserves or the value of expected deposits of minerals like lithium that have not been verified scientifically to the point of being able to estimate a value.
Brinkley said what was important was the mineral deposits were large enough to give
"This is a country that has an $800 million annual budget, that depends on the international community for the vast majority for the cost of its security, its development," he said. "So what's relevant about the number ... is the Afghan people ... have a source of indigenous wealth that, properly developed, will enable them to be sovereign."
But resources are likely to pose challenges as well; Robert Lamb, an expert in post-conflict reconstruction at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said if the minerals were to help produce a positive outcome to the U.S.-led war in
"This is one of those cases where
News of the country's untapped wealth is likely to intensify competition among regional players such as
Two Chinese firms have committed themselves to a $4 billion investment in the vast Aynak copper mine, south of
Another big contract to mine an estimated 1.8 billion tons of high-quality iron ore in the remote mountainous region of Hajigak is expected to open for international bidding this year.